By Perparim Isufi
As the row over the war veterans’ list rumbles on, Kosovo citizens took to the streets on Wednesday to demand the dismissal the Chief Prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi – alleging that he had undermined the investigation into the issue.
A street protest joined by opposition party supporters in Pristina on Wednesday demanded the resignation of the Chief Prosecutor, Aleksander Lumezi, over claims that he was undermining the fight against corruption.
“This is a protest against the crimes being committed for 20 years now and that are violating our right to economic development and freedom,” one of the protesters Krenare Loxha said in an address to the crowd.
“We want to have a state which protects our freedom, not one which violates them,” she added.
The rally was backed by supporters of the opposition Vetevendosje party, which called on citizens to “clean up” the state of the judiciary.
Vetevendosje MP Albulena Haxhiu on Wednesday said the prosecutor was to blame for the resignation of Elez Blakaj – who had been in charge of probing the country’s notorious list of war veterans – and who on Monday said he had been threatened during his work.
“Blakaj was threatened by the person who should have provided unreserved support to those prosecutors who fight corruption and organised crime,” Haxhiu said.
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“To have justice and independent institutions, such persons should not be at the helm of the justice system,” she added.
The protest came after Blakaj claimed in a open letter that he had also faced pressure from Lumezi for summoning senior political figures in Kosovo to testify.
Lumezi on Wednesday told the media that he intended to stay on, despite the pressure from opposition parties and civil society for him to quit.
“If Kosovo institutions and the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council assess that I have violated the law, I will accept any decision they take, but I will never accept pressure from political entities and civil society that interfere in the work of the prosecution,” Lumezi said.
He said that, following Blakaj’s resignation, another prosecutor had been assigned to take over the war veterans’ list case. However, he did not disclose the name of the new prosecutor.
Since his resignation, Blakaj has been bitterly attacked by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who has called him a “thief”, and denied he had faced threats.
On Wednesday, Haradinaj said that while he was “against the inclusion on the veterans’ list of those who are not veterans, I am also against that a thief – because he is a thief – and you know why he is a thief – because we have gave him all the conditions to do his job. It is not true he was threatened. I gave him all the materials that were needed,” Haradinaj said
Blakaj, who quit on August 15, recalled heated meetings with Chief Prosecutor Lumezi when he was investigating the veterans’ list, which many believe has been seriously inflated.
“Lumezi … demanded that I account for why I had invited [Assembly Speaker] Kadri Veseli [as a witness] on the veterans’ case, maintaining that ‘there is no need to interrogate those who have [parliamentary] immunity’.
“I made it clear to him that the Constitutional Court … does not give immunity to anybody concerning criminal charges,” Blakaj wrote.
The state prosecution started collecting information about potential errors in the verification process of former KLA guerrillas back in 2016.
“This probe … is directed towards those individuals who have committed wrongdoings by giving false testimonies, or by presenting fictitious and false documents in order to gain war veteran status,” the prosecution said at the time.
The announcement came after the then government published a report listing 46,230 individuals as part of the guerrilla force in the 1998-99 conflict with Serbian forces.
NGOs and war veterans’ organisations in Pristina raised concerns that the figure had been inflated for political reasons.
Former high-ranking KLA members remain the dominant force in Kosovo. Many became politicians after the 1998-99 war, including current President Hashim Thaci and Prime Minister Haradinaj.